Friday, November 25, 2005

Tell me how long is a short time
Is it longer than 2 hours?
Or a bit less than a weekend?
Is it shorter than a year?
Is it the time it takes to not complete your business with a person?
- Tiddas, For a Short Time

This is my question of the week. As others prepare to go away, as I prepare myself, and as I pass another year marker (thanks to everyone who sent their wishes for me!). Knowing that, when I leave, life will go on, I try to see what else I should do to enable that process before I go. This is particularly relevant for my patients with HIV - how can I enable them to see their children go to school, grow up? What haven't I done that I can? What should I acknowledge that I can't?

I feel that there are many with whom my business is not complete.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Hug

The people here don't hug. They hold hands. They rest their heads on another's lap as they sit and chat. They touch knees and squash into small spaces when required. But they don't hug.

Readers of Shantaram will know the type of hug that I mean.

So, after a really difficult morning, I was seeing a patient I met 2 weeks before. We share no language. She is in a lot of pain, for which I can't do much. She might have quite a serious disease and is justifiably worried. I didn't have any answers for her.

Instead of leaving, she hugged me. A proper, warm, close hug. A hug that was held for several seconds. A hug that was exactly what I needed. A hug that enveloped me and transferred so much energy and strength that I nearly cried for the second time that day.

Because the people here don't hug.


The past month has been more of a rollercoaster than previously. The ride has not yet ended, nor are we coasting into the stop any time soon. But is has put me into more of a reflective mood, and here's the result.

What has changed for me this year?

I've learnt that this work is very rewarding, and very exhausting. Perhaps the two are necessarily entwined.

I've learnt what it's like to have no backup.

I've become more tolerant of people (I hope) but less tolerant of bullshit.

I've learnt to be less Ozily direct, and more evasive (and hence more culturally appropriate).

I've been reminded how irrelevant most world events are to most of the world.

I've learnt how important my own home is to me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Full Moon Festival

The crowd is out for the evening. Music bounces through the concrete of the market and the smells of sticky rice and barbecues drift across the street. Familiar faces emerge from the crowd with smiles in leiu of shared language. I hit three balloons with darts and am rewarded with a bottle of orange cordial. Hawkers carry baskets of newspaper pages, bought to reserve patches of ground before the film. At one end, couples twirl in traditional costume; at the other the white canvas is ready for the blood of the boxers.

A few flashes, a stir in the air. We seek food, and perhaps it is better to be inside as the slightest of raindrops begin to fall.

As we sit, the sky falls.

Sheets of water hit the papers, cigarette sellers, samosas. The umbrellas blossom and are abandoned just as quickly. Carts are shut, wheeled crazily away; the dart boards vanish, the film screen billows. The floods from the sky merge with those on the ground.

The crowds sit inside the market, the party having left the guests behind. Someone starts the music again. The long tile benches, cleaned from the day of fish and pork, house exhausted children on bamboo mats. Women feed the babies hanging in sarongs around their shoulders. Teenage boys in army disposals gather in the passageways, less tough under the glaring of fluorescent lights and their parents. The people wait, robbed yet expectant.

There will be no boxing tonight.

Friday, November 04, 2005

One thing I should have learnt earlier in life

Having a shower at the same time as eating peanut-butter toast is nigh impossible.

Furthermore, it somewhat defeats the purpose of the shower.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Oh, the festivities

Cup Day has a bit of history for me. We used to have a long-weekend family-and-friends 4 day Cup Competition, involving various party games, paper flowers, apple bobbing and its own trophy with yearly thematic additions. In retropsect, a booze-up while the kids were kept busy. But still one of those childhood memories to smile at.

Then, after several years, the frantic last minute cramming of exam time. One year I had two on the Monday and two on the Wednesday. I at least turned on the TV in the background.

Yesterday, I was unexpectedly in the office. This fact alone had me frustrated enough to turn into a nasty snapping bitchy person who periodically slammed anything within reach. I remembered at 10, and thought I should set my alarm.

I remembered again at 11:10, raced down to the house, flicked the TV on...
to see the victory lap. Crap. The weigh-in wasn't so exciting after not having seen the race itself.

Oh well, I guess I didn't completely miss the Greatest Day in Australian Sporting History.

and another...

glad to have had my measles vaccinations. it appears to be virus season.